Teddy's Vegas Wiseguy Report: More Bottom Feeders
Last week, I turned my focus towards the bottom feeders; teams that some folks have been calling ‘dead’ of late. There were more struggling squads than I could cover in a single column; hence Part 2 of my bottom feeder report this week.
With five games remaining on the slate for every NFL team, there’s still time to make money fading the teams that have quit on their coach and their season. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s an opportunity to make money with teams that are out of playoff contention IF they play with passion and precision down the stretch.
Here’s my take on this five-pack of sub .500 clubs.
Rookie QB Brandon Weeden continues to struggle, throwing an early pick six, putting the Browns in a hole. QB woes have plagued this franchise since their inception/return to Cleveland more than a decade ago, and I've seen nothing out of Weeden as a rookie to make me think that he's a franchise QB, capable of leading this team back to respectability.
Weeden is not testing defenses deep, constantly settling for checkdowns; a dink and dunk passer. He's throwing multiple poor passes -- interceptable balls -- on a weekly basis. And he's not making the big throws with the game on the line in the fourth quarter – the Browns punted on each of their last five drives here, and, incredibly, were in position to lose a game where the defense forced eight turnovers.
But the Browns continue to play hard, particularly on defense – they’re in every game. Trent Richardson is an absolute beast of a back. Underdogs who can control clock with their running game and who play tough defense can cover spreads; hence the consistent wiseguy support for the Browns this year.
I’m not a fan of head coach Pat Shurmur though -- bottom feeder teams should be taking some chances on fourth downs, not settling for field goals again and again and again. Shurmur's lack of aggressiveness and willingness settle for three has cost his team multiple games this year.
QB Ryan Lindley was no better than Kevin Kolb or John Skelton before him. If fact, he was worse in many regards, not surprisingly – sixth round draft choices are not supposed to start NFL games as rookies! Even the best sixth rounder ever, Tom Brady, didn’t get his chance until his second season in the league. I’ll give Lindley credit for having a decent arm, and taking downfield shots, not settling for high percentage, low reward checkdowns. But both of his pick sixes were very ugly passes, and those two passes were the difference in the game.
I was not impressed with the offensive playcalling one iota. And this run defense hasn’t been good all year and got annihilated by Stephen Jackson here. What happens when you couple a mistake prone offense with lousy OL play and lousy QB play with a defense that can’t stop the run? A seven game losing streak that doesn’t look like it’s going to end anytime soon…..
Penalties. Blown coverages. Missed tackles. Missed blocking assignments from the offensive line. Poor special teams coverage. Yes, San Diego deserves to be included in an article focusing on bottom feeders. They’re not 1-6 SU, 2-5 ATS in their last seven games by accident; the lone victory since their 3-1 September coming against the hapless Chiefs.
How many times did announcer Ian Eagle say 'Rivers throws one into coverage, almost picked off'? Many, many times, even though Rivers had a rare turnover free performance. The Chargers couldn’t convert running the football on 3rd and short -- this offensive line isn't getting the job done. San Diego hasn’t had a single rushing touchdown since Week 5, another indictment of this OL. Rookie offensive tackle Mike Harris got eaten up; a big part of their consistent third down struggles. Rivers had seven 'throwaways' to go along with the six sacks that he took -- this OL is a banged up, bottom tier unit right now, and when the Chargers kept seven men in to block, nobody is seemed to get open downfield.
Like clockwork, with the game on the line in the fourth quarter, the Chargers just couldn't make plays on either side of the football -- three and outs on offense, scoring drives allowed on defense. When you can't stop a checkdown pass on 4th and 29 to win the game, you don't deserve the victory.
Oakland continues to get beaten badly in the trenches on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Carson Palmer got sacked twice on the Raiders opening drive, under constant pressure without the threat of a strong running game. The end result? Oakland is constantly in third and long situations, near the bottom of the NFL in third down conversion percentage.
Defensively, the line continues to get blown off the ball on nearly every play. They allowed the two longest runs of plodding back BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ five year career here. That's what happens when a recently deceased owner acted as his own GM for decades, concentrating on drafting skill position speed instead of interior maulers who can control the line of scrimmage.
Oakland's pass defense is just awful, giving up big gainers on third and longs, repeatedly unable to get off the field. When Cinci’s best weapon, WR AJ Green doesn't have a defender within 15 yards of him on a third and long, it speaks volumes about a defense that isn't functioning at all. And the missed tackles against the Cinci running game were just atrocious -- bad form. This team has no confidence, pretty beaten down at this stage of the season.
Sam Bradford is regressing. A QB who was drafted #1 overall because of his accuracy is misfiring repeatedly: overthrows, underthrows, you name it. Bradford's footwork was awful, and he’s getting happy feet, anticipating hits before they happen playing behind this miserable offensive line. His red zone INT before halftime was just brutal -- bad read, bad throw, bad everything on first down! Bradford’s one bright spot was that he attacked vertically all afternoon. Three different receivers caught a pass of 37 yards or longer, and Chris Givens has emerged as a legitimate deep threat.
Jeff Fisher’s team had so many mental failures here. A personal foul extended the Cardinals first TD drive. Missed blitz pickups led to big drive-killing sacks. You shouldn’t punt to Patrick Paterson, but the Rams let him get the ball in space more than once, extremely lucky to avoid a punt return touchdown. They had penalties on both punt and kick returns, leaving them backed up deep. They lost contain on a reverse, giving up a big gain in the red zone. A penalty on the two yard line killed a drive, then slumping kicker Greg Zuerlein missed an easy field goal. It’s a good thing they were facing a mistake prone rookie QB making his first start, finally ending their five game drought without creating a single turnover on defense or St Louis would have remained winless for the sixth consecutive week.
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